“Who could it be?” Asked Shelise cautiously.
Eneran shrugged and moved towards the door, opening it. There was a nervous man standing outside the door with his hand raised. He was about to knock a second time when the door opened. He was dressed in the garbs of a clergyman, albeit a low level clergyman, most likely a cleric. Other than that, there was nothing noticeable about his appearance, he was plain and his hair was disheveled.
“Hmm” Eneran eyed him up and down with lightning occasionally streaking across his pupils, cutting a rather scary figure.
The lowly cleric was shaking slightly in fear, “Um excuse me, sorry.. May I come in?” He stuttered, barely able to get a word out.
Eneran checked the hallway and saw no one else and then pulled the cleric into the room eliciting a shocked scream from the cleric.
“A Northerner, aren’t you? Why are you here?” Shelise asked while glaring at the man.
His eyes opened wide when he saw her, she was an extremely beautiful young woman and it took him a while before he could collect himself and react to the situation before him.
“I come with a message for you from Archbishop Ragnir.”
Shelise continued to glare at the man who shrunk back, visibly anxious. Her eyes were frightening to him, and he could only look anywhere else but at her face. Eneran put his arm on the man to calm him.
“Speak then, we don’t have much time to waste here.”
“Well.. umm.. Archbishop Ragnir wanted me to tell you that the one you are looking for is with our expedition now and they are heading…”
The man couldn’t finish his statement as Shelise had rushed over to him and grabbed him by the neck, shaking him.
“Where!? Tell me now!” She asked impatiently.
The cleric could not respond and Eneran had to remove Shelise from him and calm him down again before he would speak.
“The Archbishop said to tell you that he only realized who the man was once they had already set out. He had no desire of interfering with the Church of Tihr’s intentions and he sent me here as quickly as possible to inform you. He didn’t want to alarm your target and so he hasn’t moved against him and is waiting for you on the Steppes. If you hurry, you should be able to capture him in a matter of days but you need to be wary, he has an army and powerful allies.”
Eneran scoffed, “He will not be able to escape us, an army of cannon fodder is just that, no need to concern yourself.”
“I knew it! I knew that it was here. I could feel it. We must hurry in order to catch it as soon as possible!”
Shelise gripped her fists tightly and a look of determination crossed her face. She was ecstatic to finally get revenge for what happened to her family. She completely ignored the cleric and Eneran, who put his arm around the cleric as he led him to the door. They were discussing something but Shelise was in her own world, dreaming of her revenge, and didn’t pay attention to their conversation.
“I will soon pour out all of its blood upon the Steppes and finally, my family will be able to rest in peace. This is all thanks to the great and mighty Tihr!”
A large military camp spread out into the distance and it was difficult to see how immense it was due to the darkness of night. Of course the size of the army was far from the largest, but there was easily an army of over ten thousand in this military camp. Because of the numerous tents, areas where the horses and other animals rested, and the wagons and carts transporting food and equipment, the camp was large. The amount of supplies and equipment required for the expedition was much larger than an army would usually need and managing all of it also required a good amount of manpower.
There was also large area where slaves were kept who were forced to live in barely better conditions than squalor. They numbered nearly as much as the army and so the total size of the camp was somewhere around twenty thousand. This was also just one of the camps that made up the Northern churches expedition, but it was the largest and the core.
Fire pits and torches, which were lit in intervals, brightened up the camp which was divided into different areas. However, it was difficult to light such a large camp. It was possible to do so with magic, but this would either require a significant number of expensive magic equipment or the consistent use of magic power which would drain the magic casters. Neither was feasible for most armies and so it was still necessary to rely on old fashioned torches. Only the more important areas of the camp, such as the command tent and areas for the clergy and magic casters in the center, would have magic equipment to brighten their tents.
Above the tents flew flags with various symbols belonging to the Northern churches and knights, warriors and soldiers patrolled the outskirts of the camp in shifts. The camp was well organized and well maintained without the normal chaos of a military camp. These were elite soldiers and zealots who faithfully served their gods and their discipline was a notch above the average soldier.
Standing around a table in the command tent, which appeared to have a partially mapped out area of the Steppes, several important figures were discussing the path of their expedition as well as the overall situation of the Steppes. Archbishop Ragnir and the twin werewolf brothers were among this group, but there were other important figures including the commander of the Northern church’s army for the expedition. The commander was a well known and powerful master class being who had been specifically brought south to oversee the Northern church’s expeditionary force. He was a grizzled veteran of many wars and a competent strategist.
“Are there still no reports from the scouts?”
“None sir, it as if they have all disappeared. Not a single one has returned.”
“This is bad, how can all of our scouts go missing, we sent out dozens of them.”
The officers and high clergy were discussing the strange occurrences which had been disrupting their plans.
“And what of the magic casters, have you tried scrying?” Asked Archbishop Ragnir who was furrowing his brow as he looked at all the blank areas of the map.
“There seems to be some sort of magical interference.” Answered the commander.
“What could possibly cause interference? There is nothing more than barbarian scum and savage Orcs on the Steppes. Are you saying our magic casters are incapable of scrying the terrain?”
“The Orcs and Barbarians have their own magic casters. Their Shamans may be responsible for this, we don’t know much about their magic abilities. We have had too little contact with their kind.”
“How can that even be possible, are you saying these savages are aware of our presence? This phase of the expedition was supposed to be kept a secret, the tribes shouldn’t be aware of our intentions.”
“Then why haven’t we seen a single camp yet? We have only seen some tracks here and there but not a single Orc or Barbarian.”
Those present were arguing with each other causing Ragnir to suddenly have a headache. In a fit of anger he slammed his hand down on the table, silencing the group.
“We have to assume they know of our presence. How this happened or why we haven’t come across any tribes yet is a mystery. We can only deal with the reality of the present, what do we do now? We are supposed to be sweeping the area of all tribes and killing or enslaving them. If they were to unite, they could delay our expedition and cause us numerous troubles. Although the numbers in this region can’t pose a significant threat, it is still an unwelcome situation. It will be a catastrophe if they are able to move the larger tribes. If the horde moves, this expedition may end up a failure.”
The group within the tent turned grim with Ragnir’s words. They had nothing to retort and could only consider the circumstance in silence. Brock was present in the command tent as well but he stood back away from the rest. He wasn’t exactly welcome, nor trusted, and so none asked his opinion. He listened carefully to the conversation in the tent however and had his own thoughts about their situation. He didn’t care whether the expedition succeeded or failed though, and said nothing. Ragnir eyed him briefly but shook his head. Even though he was the true authority of the expedition that didn’t mean he could easily undermine the commander he had requested himself.
“Then what do you suggest our course of action should be Commander Uthard?”
The commander didn’t answer immediately as he carefully surveyed the map but before long, shouts were heard outside the tent and a soldier came running into the command tent.
“We are under attack!”
Those within the command tent had shocked expressions, but quickly recovered.
“Dammit! This must be what they had intended. What are the sentries doing?”
“Sir, the sentries never gave out any warning! We only knew once the Orcs were already slaughtering their way into the camp. I ran here as soon as I heard the shouts of battle.” The soldier said while catching his breath.
“We must hurry and organize a defense and push them out quickly. Go now!” The commander shouted while everyone within the tent rushed out.
The twin direwolves especially were infuriated and had run out before anyone else to rush into the battle. They had already begun their werewolf transformation, not waiting another second.